Discover more from The Formation Digest with J.L. Tanner
Four steps to move beyond leadership theory into action in order to become a better human and leader.
What does it mean to be formed?
What does it mean to be in formation, to be formed? I keep arriving at this truth that to be in formation is to participate in the ongoing creation of oneself. And what is the primary cultural tool, resource, or process by which leadership culture is created (at least in the United States)? Leadership by Bestseller. It’s a transaction; with a business book. When did we buy the lie that we could simply read a book and be a better leader?
I experience this mentality every week, if not every day. Someone will ask me if I’ve read__________[book], and tell me it’s SO good. But then when I explore a bit more for how they’ve implemented it or how they’ve uniquely created something for their organization from it, at best they say they’ve used this part or that, and most often they look sheepish and confused. By the way, I get frustrated by this, but I’m completely guilty myself.
I’ve grown up in and been complicit in an education system that values regurgitation over creation.
I believe the reality is that the vast majority of people in leadership positions have settled for voyeuristic or imaginary leadership. We either watch others implement practices, even fictional characters we read about in leadership fables, and believe we are becoming a better leader because we know and “believe in” certain principles. Or, we imagine that we’re actually using said principles because we read them and are regurgitating them as we talk about our work and leadership.
Are either of these scenarios truly formation? Have they found their way into tools and processes that we’re consistently practicing? Are either of these creating something new from the knowledge we’ve acquired? I think not. We’re missing a necessary bridge between intellection and action. What can we do to build a bridge?
Explore before arriving. We must diverge before we converge. Only when we make sense of reality can we create.
After exhausting exploratory questions, begin to converge. This may look like advice, but it will more often look like epiphanies. These are aha! moments that signify an evolutionary movement forward in thinking. Name these. Record them. Embody them. And don’t look back.
Take that epiphany into action. Commit to doing something concretely different in the future. Make a practical and lasting change in your behavior.
Invite a trusted confidant or teammate into your epiphany and commitment, and subject yourself to their accountability.
By engaging in these 4 steps, you’ll greatly increase the likelihood that you’re in formation. Moving beyond intellection to action is the key.